|LIRR Alcohol Ban: End of the Line for Midnight Drinkers (1157294)|
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LIRR Alcohol Ban: End of the Line for Midnight Drinkers
Posted by Gold_12TH on Fri May 18 23:26:20 2012Long Island-bound commuters who prefer to bring a few beers on their Friday night trip to Babylon better catch the 11:52 p.m. out of Penn Station. Starting this weekend, Long Island Rail Road will prohibit alcoholic beverages at the stroke of midnight.
The overnight ban is limited in scope, lasting until 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Passengers departing at all other times will still be allowed to bring their own booze aboard.
Still, the change doesn’t sit well with tipsy passengers or those who supply them.
A late-night exploration of affected lines last weekend turned up no shortage of open containers—as well as burping, slurred speech, stumbling and, in one case, vomiting. Those holding drinks included celebrating sports fans, revelers ending a night on the town, both amorous and quarrelsome couples and women weeping into cellphones.
Anthony Silva, a videogame-store clerk from Long Island, clutched brown-bagged Budweiser cans in each hand on the Port Washington line, his girlfriend nodding off at his side. His response was typical.
“The city doesn’t need to be so concerned with what happens here,” explained Mr. Silva, who like several people interviewed about the ban attributed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s policy to city officials.
He preferred to restrict the drinking of riders headed across the Hudson, a proposal rooted in the ongoing playoff series between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils: “They should be looking at that PATH shit,” Mr. Silva said.
The decision to ban late-night alcohol on the weekends follows a small spike in passenger misbehavior. In the space of five days in March, two LIRR conductors reported coming under assault in separate incidents, according to MTA spokesman Salvatore Arena. Between 2007 and 2010, the railroad on average recorded three assaults on conductors over a full year—a tally that rose to six in 2011.
“The conductors have been aware of an increase in attacks,” Mr. Arena said. “We’re not talking about tremendous numbers here. But look, what we want is zero incidents.”
Only one of the two incidents precipitating the ban involved alcohol, according to police and MTA records. The drunken misconduct occurred at 4:30 a.m.
The partial LIRR drinking ban complicates an already patchwork system of rules about when and where transit passengers in the region can and can’t imbibe.
Metro-North, the MTA’s other suburban train service, is in the alcohol business through its fleet of bar cars—but only on the New Haven line. Alcohol consumption is forbidden in New York City’s subway system, yet the rule is sometimes broken.
New Jersey Transit is no more consistent than the MTA, forbidding alcohol on its Hudson-Bergen light-rail line while allowing it on other services. Amtrak sells alcohol in most of its dining and lounge cars but permits the consumption of private stock only in sleeper cars.
None of the three largest U.S. commuter railroads beyond New York—serving Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia—allow boozing on board. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is planning to ban even alcohol-related advertising this summer.
Enforcement of LIRR’s part-time prohibition will occur throughout the system. Mr. Arena said transit police officers will be empowered to issue summonses and eject passengers violating the rule. Even closed containers—a sealed six-pack or an unopened bottle of wine—are contraband during ban hours.
The primary focus of enforcement will be Pennsylvania Station, where additional MTA police will be positioned to interdict passengers trying to board with alcohol. Mr. Arena said there are no plans to limit alcohol sales inside the station.
“We don’t want to go that far,” he said.
Afrouj Shelina manages a trio of Penn Station venues whose marquees list a jumble of fast-food logos. Twice each week she accepts deliveries of some three dozen cases of beer, and weekends account for about one third of her beer sales.
Passenger demand is such that even bookstores in the station include ice-filled chests of 24-ounce beer cans known as tallboys.
“If they cannot have beers, I will not be able to sell them,” Ms. Shelina said. “If I cannot sell them, it will hurt not just my business but the whole station.”
Felix Kumira, the night manager at Central Market, a catch-all food and beer purveyor inside the station, doubted that the new LIRR rules would do much to change the culture of drunken commuting.
“What does it do if you cannot drink the beers on the train if you already have had the beers in the station or in Madison Square Garden? The people will be drunk anyway,” Mr. Kumira said. “The city cannot ban being drunk at midnight on the weekend.”
Mr. Arena agreed. “Being noticeably intoxicated will not prevent you from getting on the train,” acknowledged the MTA spokesman.